Cases on Najib, Rosmah hit headlines again in 2022

KUALA LUMPUR – This year, the Malaysian courts certainly made headlines with salient verdicts handed down against politicians and public figures charged with corruption, money-laundering, criminal breach of trust (CBT) and murder cases.

The high-profile ruling saw Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak become the country’s first former prime minister sent to jail for a criminal offence.

Najib, 69, was sent to Kajang Prison to serve his jail term after the Federal Court, on Aug 23, upheld the conviction and 12 years jail sentence and RM210 million fine imposed on him by the High Court here for misappropriating RM42 million of SRC International Sdn Bhd funds.

A five-member bench led by Chief Justice Tun Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, in dismissing Najib’s appeal against the Court of Appeal ruling which affirmed the High Court’s decision (12 years’ jail sentence and RM210 million fine), held that Najib, during the SRC International trial did not dispute that the RM42 million had entered into his personal bank accounts.

The spotlight was also on Najib’s wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, as a week after that, she was found guilty of three graft charges in connection with the solar hybrid project worth RM1.25 billion for 369 rural schools in Sarawak and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine of RM970 million by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Sept 1.

The court also ordered Rosmah, 70, to be jailed for 30 years if she fails to pay the fine. She had been granted a stay of execution of the jail sentence and fine pending an appeal at the Court of Appeal.

Besides the solar case, Rosmah is also facing money laundering and tax evasion charges. The High Court has set May 12 next year for the trial.

As for Najib, he still has four pending court cases involving the misappropriation of RM2.3 billion of 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds, abusing his position to amend the 1MDB audit report, criminal breach of trust amounting to RM6.6 billion over payments to International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC) and money laundering involving SRC International funds worth RM27 million.

On the audit tampering case, the High Court has fixed Jan 30 next year to decide whether Najib and former 1MDB chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy will be acquitted or ordered to enter their defence.

While the trial involving the RM2.3 billion 1MDB’s funds is ongoing at the High Court, with the 41st prosecution witness having called to testify, his second SRC International trial involving RM27 million has been fixed for further case management on Feb 9 next year and for the IPIC case, the trial has yet to start at the High Court.

Another high-profile case of public interest concerns Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who was acquitted and discharged by the Shah Alam High Court on Sept 23 on 40 charges of receiving bribes in connection with the Foreign Visa System (VLN) at the end of the prosecution case.

Judge Datuk Mohd Yazid Mustafa acquitted Ahmad Zahid, who is also UMNO president, after finding that the prosecution had failed to make out a prima facie case on all the charges against him by failing to prove the foremost important element against Ahmad Zahid, which is the receipt of the corrupt monies, and also because the key prosecution witnesses were unreliable and not credible.

Not satisfied with the ruling, the prosecution filed an appeal to the Court of Appeal on Sept 26, and the court has fixed Jan 10` next year for case management.

 Ahmad Zahid is however still on trial on 47 CBT, corruption and money laundering charges involving funds amounting to tens of millions of ringgit belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.

On Jan 24, the High Court ordered him to enter his defence on all the charges and so far,  the defence has called six witnesses, including Ahmad Zahid, himself, to testify. The trial continues on Jan 6 next year.

 Another high-profile case that made headlines was the acquittal of former Baling Member of Parliament Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim on three corruption and 10 money laundering charges in connection with road projects in Perak and Kedah.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Idrus Harun, in a statement, said that the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) did not proceed with the corruption and money laundering charges against Abdul Azeez as there were no testimonies and facts favouring the prosecution.

The same goes for lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who was also freed from two counts of money laundering involving RM9.5 million allegedly received from Najib and for making false declarations to the Inland Revenue Board (IRB).

On Oct 28, the High Court ruled that the prosecution failed to prove that the RM9.5 million received by the lawyer from Najib was proceeds from unlawful activities and that based on the testimony of the prosecution witnesses, there was no evidence of predicate action (illegal activity) involved and where the money was obtained from.

On the same day, another High Court ordered Muar Member of Parliament Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman to enter his defence on four charges of abetting in CBT, misappropriation of assets and money laundering in relation to Armada’s fund.

Another verdict of high profile case that also captured public attention was that involving Kinabatangan MP Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin and his wife, Datin Seri Zizie Izette Abdul Samad, who have been ordered by the Sessions Court, on Sept 2, to enter their defence.

The defence trial has been set to begin on Jan 3 next year.

Bung Moktar and Zizie Izette then filed separate applications at the HIgh Court seeking to review the decision, but their requests were dismissed after the court allowed the prosecution’s preliminary objection against the review.

On May 26, the Sessions Court sentenced former Sabah Infrastructure Development Minister Datuk Peter Anthony to three years imprisonment and a fine of RM50,000, in default 15 months’ jail, after he was found guilty of forging a letter for a Mechanical and Electrical Systems (M&E) maintenance work at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS).

Peter appealed over the decision and the High Court fixed Jan 27 next year to hear his appeal to set aside the conviction and sentence.

In Ipoh, Perak,  the High Court sentenced former Tronoh assemblyman Paul Yong Choo Kiong to 13 years’ jail and two strokes of the cane on July 27 after fnding him guilty of raping his Indonesian maid in 2019.

The court allowed Yong’s application for a stay of execution of the ruling pending appeal.

Another criminal case that caught the nation’s eye was a child abuse case involving a Down syndrome girl known as Bella. 

On Nov 24, the Sessions Court here ordered  Rumah Bonda founder Siti Bainun Ahd Razali to enter her defence on charges of neglecting and abusing the 13-year-old girl and fixed Jan 5 next year for the defence trial.

 The court found that the prosecution had succeeded in proving that Siti Bainun mistreated and caused physical and emotional injuries to the girl, that Bella suffered physical and emotional injuries when under her care.

On June 21,  all eyes were on the Shah Alam High Court as it acquitted and discharged Samirah Muzaffar and two teenagers from a charge of murdering Cradle Fund chief executive officer Nazrin Hassan four years ago.

Judge Ab Karim Ab Rahman said there was no direct evidence to show that the three of them committed the offence (murder) and there was no continuity between the time of the incident with them and the evidence that the three of them were the last people with the deceased, cannot be said to lead to the offence of murdering the man.

On April 13, the Johor Bahru High Court sentenced a female clerk Sam Ke Ting to six years’ jail and a fine of RM6,000 after finding her guilty of reckless driving which caused the death of eight teenage cyclists five years ago.

She has appealed against the conviction, jail sentence and fine and the Court of Appeal has set March 31 next year for the hearing.

Besides that, there are also decisions on civil matters that made headlines, including the one made by the Shah Alam High Court on Dec 16, for awarding RM5 million in general, aggravated and exemplary damages to the family of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu over the woman’s death in 2006.

This followed a decision by Judge Datuk Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera in allowing the suit filed by Altantuya’s parents, Dr Shaariibuu Setev and Altantsetseg Sanjaa as well as their two grandsons Mungunshagai Bayarjargal and Altanshagai Munkhtulga against former policemen Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar, as well as Abdul Razak Baginda and the Malaysian government.

The court, in finding that Altantuya was shot, had explosives strapped to her body and blown to pieces,  held that the plaintiffs have established that the first and second defendants (Azilah and Sirul Azhar) had ruthlessly killed the model and it was a planned and deliberate killing.

The judge also found that the plaintiffs have successfully proved on a balance of probabilities that Abdul Razak has a culpable role in the death of the model and if not for him, Azilah and Sirul Azhar would not have taken the deceased in their car from Abdul Razak’s residence and ultimately killed her.

Another is on a High Court ruling on Oct 31, which dismissed a RM100 million suit filed by the Sultanah of Terengganu, Sultanah Nur Zahirah, against Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown and two others for allegedly defaming her in a book,  titled “The Sarawak Report-The Inside 1MDB Expose”.

Judicial Commissioner Dr John Lee Kien How @ Mohd Johan ruled that there were no defamatory statements in the defendant’s book and ordered RM80,000 in costs to be paid to the defendants.

On Nov 25, the High Court allowed former Attorney-General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas’ application to quash the suit filed by Najib over alleged misfeasance in public office for prosecuting him on charges involving the 1MDB and ruled that the claim brought by Najib was obviously unsustainable and that there was no reasonable cause of action.

In another case, the High Court on Nov 14, dismissed the prosecution’s application to forfeit 2,435 pieces of jewellery, seven luxury watches, and 29 designer handbags, as well as cash amounting to RM114,164,393.44 belonging to Najib and Rosmah which were seized by the police in a raid in May 2018.

On Nov 30, Idrus confirmed that the AGC was not appealing against the ruling, which means that Najib and Rosmah are free to claim back their valuables.

The items, alleged to be proceeds from unlawful activities linked to the 1MDB fund scandal, were confiscated under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act (AMLATFPUAA) 2001.

The year 2022 also saw the Court of Appeal on Aug 5, in a 2-1 majority decision, overturned a High Court decision which ruled that children born overseas to Malaysian mothers with foreign spouses were entitled to automatic Malaysian citizenship.

A three-member bench chaired by Justice Datuk Kamaludin Md Said made the ruling after allowing an appeal by the government, Home Ministry and National Registration Department (NRD) director-general to set aside Sept 9, 2021, High Court’s landmark decision on an originating summons filed by the Association of Family Support & Welfare Selangor & Kuala Lumpur (Family Frontiers) and six Malaysian women who are married to foreigners with overseas-born children.

The majority decision was agreed to by Justice Kamaluddin and Justice Datuk Azizah Nawawi, while Justice Datuk S. Nantha Balan dissented. – Bernama / pic TMR File